In my column on Ynet, “What Is the Difference Between the Flowering Almond Tree and the Falling Economy?”
The Tu B’Shvat customs are simple and kind—we eat dried fruit, drink a little wine, the children plant trees, and that’s it. But the truth is that Tu B’Shvat is one of the most significant holidays because it holds the secret to solving the problems in our lives. Dr. Michael Laitman on the key to a good life that grows on Tu B’Shvat
Tu B’Shvat is not among the “famous” holidays; the holidayis not often talked about. It is hidden among Sukkot, Shavuot, and Pesach, entitled the “New Year for Trees,” and occupies a “modest” place on the Israeli calendar. Its customs are simple and affable—we eat dried fruit, drink a little wine, the children plant trees, and that’s it. The truth is that Tu B’Shvat is one of the most significant holidays! According to the Kabbalists, Tu B’Shvat holds the secret to solving the problems in our lives.
How Everything Is Interconnected
We live in a global world. From event to event it is becoming clear to us how much we are linked to each other in all the various levels of life (1). When an economic crisis breaks out in China or in Russia, it colors the world stock exchanges red; a murderous injury in the heart of Paris puts all the world powers on alert; civil wars in Syria are causing mass migration that is changing the demography and composition of the population in continental Europe, and this is even before we have spoken about oil prices, the war initiated in the Ukraine, or the crazy weather that reminds us that we are living on the same planet and influence its “mood.”
“The 21st century, unlike the periods that preceded it, consists of a collection of numerous communications networks that are connected to each other by endless intersections,” writes Professor Ludger Kühnhardt, director of the Center for European Integration Studies. Joined by well-known researchers, he describes how much we are linked to each other (2). Unfortunately, it is specifically the global crises that are causing this insight to seep into our feelings (3).
The Nobel Prize Laureate in economics Professor Paul Krugman writes, “In the global age all of us are in the same boat.” And today the boat has cracked and water is slowly penetrating inside. It is clear to all of us that the world is global and managed as a closed system, and in spite of it, we continue to conduct ourselves as every man for himself, as if nothing has changed. The negative system of connections between us is causing the boat to sink (4). One can imagine us as tenants of a single building that suddenly discover that they have signed an agreement that obligates them to mutual responsibility. From now on, we must pay for any damage that a neighbor’s child does, and the problems of one of the tenants is our problem too.
The gap and the contradiction between the global connections, which are “pressuring” us to unite, in contrast to the egoistic concern of every man for himself are the cause for the various crises that are being revealed before our eyes. “Our world is becoming global and integral, which is to say, all of us are connected to each other”, is the way that Professor Yehudah Kahana of the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University analyzes the situation. “The change in the significance of values that we require for this is to stop thinking only about ‘I’ and to begin to also think about ‘we’.”
The Question Is, How To Connect?
We have tried a multitude of methods “to plug up the hole in the boat.” Only last weekend the Economic Forum Conference in Davos, a prestigious summit, ended. World summit conferences, regional cooperation, the fake European Union, and countless international organizations have not succeeded in patching the crack, and the boat continues to fill with water…
It is not enough to warn: “Most of all we need to unite today” (5), the time has come to do something. Unfortunately no “union” succeeds and will not succeed in holding its position, for a method for dealing with the egoism that is continuing to grow is missing. Human egoism is the negative force that destroys human relationships. The only wisdom that offers a method for connecting above the egoism that separates us without suppressing it is the authentic wisdom of Kabbalah.
This ancient method (6) teaches us to build links of mutual consideration and concern that are so important in the global world of today. It directs us to realize the ancient principles of connection, like: “What is hateful to you, don’t do to your friend” (Shabbat 31a) “And you shall love your friend as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). By means of this we learn to discover the power of connection in the link between us, the positive power that is inherent in nature, and with its help, balance the egoism in interpersonal relationships (7).
And How Is all of this Linked to Tu B’Shvat?
The New Year for Trees that begins today reminds us of the positive power that exists in nature. The seed that we plant in the ground symbolizes the enormous potential that exists in the relationships between us. This seed will germinate and grow into a tree that gives life, and later bears fruit like: personal safety in the streets, the reduction of disparities and inequality in the economy, a healthcare system that is concerned about all of us and an education in values; it needs the water of life of the wisdom of Kabbalah. When a spirit of oneness spreads between us, like living water, it seeps into all the social systems.
The need to invest in fertile soil, building an environment that will hoist the flag of the importance of unity between us as a key to the good life, is the central and universal message of Tu B’Shvat. This is the reason that this holiday was always important to the Kabbalists. It is not for nothing that the Torah compares humanity to a tree in the field. Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for trees, is an invitation to the beginning of growth, the beginning of a new life (8).
Happy holiday to the whole house of Israel.
(1) “Do not be surprised if I mix together the well-being of a particular collective with the well-being of the whole world, because indeed, we have already come to such a degree that the whole world is considered one collective and one society. Meaning, because each person in the world draws his life’s marrow and his livelihood from all the people in the world, he is coerced to serve and care for the well-being of the whole world…. and therefore the well-being of the collective and his own well-being are one and the same” (Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag – Baal HaSulam, in the article, “Peace in the World”).
(2) “To know who we are, we must understand how we are connected” (Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociological medicine, Harvard University, from his book Connected).
“Within the vast fabric of humanity every person is connected to his friends, his family, his work associates and his neighbors. However, these people are linked to their friends, their families, their work associates and their neighbors and so forth endlessly into the distance, until all the people in the world are connected to all the rest in this way or another” (Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociological medicine, Harvard University, from his book, Connected).
(3) “Globalization is not only something that will concern and threaten us in the future, but something that is taking place in the present and to which we must first open our eyes.” (Ulrich Beck, from an interview with Brigitte Neumann, in the monthly, Deutschland, 2003).
“Globality means that from now on nothing which happens on our planet is only a limited local event; all inventions, victories and catastrophes affect the whole world, and we must reorient and reorganize our lives and actions, our organizations and institutions, along a ‘local-global’ axis.” (Ulrich Beck, What is Globalization?, 2000).
“There will not be a solution to problems of the climate, unemployment, the economy, trade, carbon dioxide emissions or any other problem until the world will understand that the solution to all of these problems lies in unity and cooperation” (Gordon Brown, Phd History, former British Prime Minister).
“Recently, from the findings of a report on climate change by the IPCC they stated that there is a 95 percent certainty that humans have been the dominant cause of global warming since the 50s of the last century. The report indicates that ‘effective improvement is not liable to be attained as long as individual agencies will continue to promote their own private goals. Common responses, including international cooperation, are imperative to improve the level of greenhouse gas emissions and to relate to additional climatic factors” (Stocker, Qin, Plattner, Tignor, Allen, Boschung, Midgley (2013), Report on “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.” Working Group Contribution).
“Most people are aware that human behavior is harmful to the environment. The damage will now be dangerous – in many areas we are approaching the turning point that will lead to the collapse of ecosystems. It is especially important because human beings evolved from nature; we depend upon nature to exist, for nature is the source of all nourishment, air and water. If the systems of nature that support life on Earth collapse, humanity will collapse” (Dr. James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia).
“The three most likely risks for the years 2012 and 2013 are the product of an old selfish paradigm of thought, and they are: severe income disparity, chronic fiscal imbalances and ecological crises, all of which are human acts” (Global Risks 2013 Report, World Economic Forum, Geneva Switzerland).
“Four of the five most probable risks that humanity faces are a product of negative links between people. Among these risks are counted, international conflicts, the failure of leadership, political collapse and unemployment” (Global Risks 2015 Report, World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland, page 60).
“Nearly one out of every ten Americans in their twenties, and one out of every sixteen of all ages, have experienced symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder” (Stinson, Dawson, Goldstein, Chou, Huang, Smith, Pickering (2008), Prevalence, correlates, disability and comorbidity of DSM-IV narcissistic personality disorder: Results from the “Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 69(7), 1033)
“Narcissism among the youth is on the rise” (Twenge and Campbell, “The Narcissism Epidemic, Living in the Age of Entitlement,” 2009).
“Our social connections rapidly collapse” (Shirley Turkle, Life on the Screen, Simon and Schuster, 2011).
“Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature” (Professor Dennis Gabor, Nobel Prize recipient in Physics).
“We are by no means strangers, and we are linked by a common destiny. And these turbulent times must bind us ever closer together” (Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund).
“The challenge that we face today, on a background of the systemic crisis, is to create a civilization that will weld the energy of all of us, even our mutual hatred, for the creation of a common collective” (Mikhail Delyagin, Director of the Institute of Globalization Problems).
“There is a need not only for a change in the social system, but for something much more complex, profound changes in the consciousness and behavior of modern man” (Boris Wolfson, expert on the study of comparative education and the history of education).
(4) “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai gave a parable about people who were sitting in a boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill underneath him. His companions said to him, ‘What are you sitting and doing?’ He said to them, ‘What does it matter to you, am I not drilling underneath me?’ They said, ‘The water is rising and flooding the boat on us’” (Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus, Parshat 4:6)
“Do not be surprised that one person’s actions bring elevation or decline to the whole world, for it is an unbending law that the general and the particular are as equal as two peas in a pod. And all that applies in the general, applies in the particular, as well. Moreover, the parts make what is found in the whole, for the general can appear only after the appearance of the parts in it, according to the quantity and quality of the parts. Evidently, the value of an act of a part elevates or declines the entire whole.” (Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag – Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” 68).
(5) Pascal Lamy, Director-general of the World Trade Organization.
(6) “There has never been any kindness as there was with Abraham…and he brought peace between one person and his fellow, for after all he was the father of many nations, because of this he unified and made peace among all the created beings” (“Gevurot HaShem,” Chapter 6)
“Abraham was forty years old when he became aware of his Creator. … And he began to stand up and proclaim in a loud voice to all of the people, to let them know that there is one God for the whole world and that He is worthy of being served. And he went and called and gathered the people from city to city and from kingdom to kingdom…until thousands and myriads gathered around him, and they were the people of the house of Abraham. And he implanted in their hearts this great principle, and wrote books about it…and the matter went and increased among the children of Jacob and in those who accompanied them, and a nation was made in the world which knows the Creator” (Rambam, Mishnah Torah, The Book of Knowledge, Hilchot Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1).
(7) “The great evils that occur between people, from one person to his fellow, are derived from ignorance. Were a person to have knowledge about the human form, he would cease all harm to himself and others. This is because knowledge of the truth removes animosity and hatred, and eliminates the harm that people do to each other” (Rambam, “Moreh Nevuchim”).
“The Wisdom of Kabbalah is the Wisdom of Truth” (“The Shelah HaKadosh,” Toldot Adam).
“The Wisdom of Truth teaches us the oneness of the world, the equal side that is to be found in everyone’s being, higher and higher, to the image of the form of the Creator, and how to go in the way of this Light without any obstacle” (The Rav Raiah Kook, “Orot HaKodesh 2,” 393)
“Only this is the entire Wisdom of Kabbalah—to know the behavior of the Supreme Will which created all of these people and what it wants from them, and what will be the end of all the orbits of the Earth” (Kelach Pitchei Hochmah, Preface 30).
“The Wisdom of Kabbalah doesn’t let us pass our lives in the dust, rather it raises our minds to the summit of knowledge” (Johannes Reuchlin, German philosopher and humanist, De Arte Cabbalistica).
(8) “The person is called a tree of the field, and Rosh HaShanah is the time of judgment, for better or for worse.
“It is written, ‘For ever is mercy built’ (Psalms 89:3). So on Tu B’Shvat, which is called the New Year for Trees, we must be strengthened with the quality of kindness, because for this we merit fruit, which is called ‘a tree bearing fruit’” (Rabbi Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag – Rabash, Dargot HaSulam, the article, “New Year for Trees”).
“…that each and every individual will understand that his own benefit and the benefit of the collective are one and same thing. In that, the world will come to its full correction.” (Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag – Baal HaSulam, the article, “Peace in the World”).
From the article on the Ynet website